Protected as a Unesco World Heritage Site, the Elephanta Caves are among Mumbai’s most astounding temple sites, home to one of India’s most precious collections of Hindu temple art.
In Elephanta Island’s labyrinthine network of subterranean caves, highly prized statues of Shiva and other deities, shrines, pillars, courtyards and halls are carved out of rock in high relief.
Elephanta’s collection of cave-temples date back to around AD 600, and were named for the elephant statue that once stood near the shore. The statue now stands in Mumbai’s Victoria Gardens.
Tours are essential to get the most from a visit to the island, revealing the stories and history of the island’s carvings and artworks. The highlight is the temple to Shiva with its towering statue of the three-faced deity, surrounding by latticework screens, carved pillars and winding corridors.
The Elephanta Caves are on Elephanta Island in Mumbai Harbour, 9km (5.5 miles) northeast of the city’s Gateway of India monument.
Take a tour or ride a half-hourly launch over to the island from Colaba on the peninsula (the trip takes an hour). Once on the island, ride the tiny train to the steps leading up to the caves (beware of the monkeys!).